Beyond the Damper: 10 Essential Effect Pedals for Keyboards

Stompboxes provide a unique challenge to keyboard users. Your best-sounding delay may transform your favorite synthesizer into a soupy state of inertia. Your treasured vintage fuzz box might morph your prized Moog or Nord into a harsh wall of static. If implemented properly, though, there are several pieces of gear that can greatly enhance your keyboard's potential. Here are 10 picks for pedals released over the past two years that translate as seamlessly to keys as they do to their six-string counterparts.

10. Mu-FX Tru-Tron 3x

Engineer Mike Beigel brought back the funk in a big way with this modern reprise of the archetypal envelope filter. The new Tru-Tron enables players to mimic keyboard legends like Stevie Wonder and Bernie Worrell. Whether you take the stage with a Hohner, Wurlitzer, or Roland, the Tru-Tron should provide plenty of attitude and color to your playing.

9. Chase Bliss Audio Wombtone

From '70s-soaked whoosh to 23rd century laser stutter, this red anodized music machine will delight synth lovers with its watery warbles and its pulsing sweeps on a phasing odyssey. A digital membrane is harmonized with 6 control pots, 3 toggles, and a host of dip switches in the neural network of this landmark analog effect. You don't have to be a part of the Jarre-Tangerine Dream generation to be over the moon for this powerhouse phaser.

8. Strymon Deco

Dirt boxes have a tendency to turn keyed chords into unrecognizable sludge, but with the Deco, players can dial in largely-transparent grit without compromising clarity. Strymon's newest creation is a great way to add unmistakeable warmth and gentle nuance without adding any undesirable coloring. Slapback echo and through-zero flange are also on the menu, as if further convincing was necessary. Once you turn it on, you may never turn it off.

Strymon Deco Tape Saturation & Doubletracker | Reverb Demo Video

7. Electro-Harmonix B9 Organ Machine

At a fraction of the girth and price of a vintage Hammond, the B9 provides musicians a compact, wallet-friendly alternative. Nine organ banks are housed inside this sleek simulator, which revisits the triumphant tones of organ acts like Booker T. & the M.G.'s, The Nice, and Procol Harum. Plug in, cycle forward, and enjoy the sounds that defined the 33 1/3 RPM era.

Electro-Harmonix B9 Organ Machine | Reverb Demo Video

6. Empress Tremolo 2

Ratio selection, tap tempo, 8 savable patches, 8 rhythms, and 3 waveforms make the Tremolo2 a modulation lover's delight. A user-friendly layout and a robust enclosure defines a unit that can sound as retro or as cutting-edge as the situation calls for. This eclectic design encapsulates the best of vintage and modern sensibilities, solidifying the Tremolo 2 as an invaluable asset to seasoned keyboardists for years to come.

5. Minifooger Series

The five offerings in the Minifooger line were initially billed as stripped-down counterparts to their knob-heavy, CV-laden big brothers. That hasn't stopped keyboard players from scooping up these lunch pail effects. The Minifooger family currently boasts a 700ms delay, a cornerstone boost, robust tremolo, musical ring mod, and a warm drive circuit, that will surely bear fruit to hours of experimentation.

4. Pigtronix Echolution 2

Tap subdivision, 60 user presets, multimode filtering, and 4 waveforms highlight one of the most-sophisticated delay units on the planet. Cascading, pristine repeats are available, or use the built-in bit crusher to add a pinched distortion to your tracks. Advanced editing parameters, analog Class A components, and an unreal 12 seconds of repeats should delight many keyboardists looking for a professional processor with unparalleled depth. The Echolution 2 is a brilliantly memorable box, which skillfully balances substance with style.

3. Catalinbread Echorec

When delay is applied to most electric keyboards, the notes bleed together in a thick wash where individual repeats are indiscernible. This is not an obstacle for the Echorec however. Head selection is key for unlocking the perfect blend. Once you have this, you'll be enthralled by the ethereal tapestry of the Echorec's trademark sound. Nothing compares to the ghostly veil that enshrouds any instrument processed by the Echorec's fabled chamber of echoes.

Catalinbread Echorec | Reverb Demo Video

2. Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl

Chase Bliss Audio's first foray into sonic architecture introduced the world to a Swiss Army knife of modulation units. Thanks to its visionary interface, an extensive foundation is available to would-be sonic chefs, eager to unleash its liquid hiccups and sputtering throbs. Throw in a Warped Vinyl for hi-fidelity warble and spiraling vibrations, sure to enhance any rehearsal or recording session.

Chase Bliss Warped Vinyl HiFi | Reverb Tone Report Demo

1. Leslie Digital Pedal

The haunting melancholia and raw force of the rotating speaker system defined iconic tracks such as "Let it Loose", "Born to be Wild", and "Like a Rolling Stone." Now you can revisit the splendid nobility and enchanting revery of this coveted effect in a roadworthy package, that's far easier to stow in your van than a 122A. With controls for cabinet model, speed, and mic distance, you'll quickly be under the spell of the Leslie's hypnotic power.

Some other recent, keyboard-friendly releases include the Empress Nebulus, Pigtronix Rototron, Dr. Scientist BitQuest, Earthquaker Devices Grand Orbiter V2, Moogerfooger MF-104MSD, and the forthcoming Mu-FX Octave Divider.

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